Ain’t nothin’ gonna break my stride. Ain’t nothin’ gonna — OH CRAP, PLYWOOD!
Researchers at The University of Michigan decided to test two-legged robot MABEL’s nominal gait (gaiters gonna gait) by hooking it to a radial arm (to support it when it falls; the arm does not have a motor) and having it walk across increasing layers of wood till it reaches its limit and falls over. The robot doesn’t yet have a camera or programmed reflexes; right now it only increases its swing leg height when the leg detects perturbations in the ground level. The video below shows what happens when this bipedal beast tries to battle with plywood:
She was able to handle a 2.5 inch (6.35 cm) drop off. In the end, she did not really fall. Each shin has a built in mechanical fuse that gives way when the load on the leg exceeds a threshold. This is done to avoid damage to the bearings in the hips. The experiment stopped when the fuse in MABEL’s shin gave way. The resulting fall is quite spectacular, but does not damage the robot. It takes about an hour to reassemble the leg. [YouTube via Engadget]
They may have pushed it into falling apart on purpose, and it may pop back together in an hour, but that still looked sad as hell. What this video really needs is some slow motion, vaseline lens shots of the robot falling set to a Sarah McLachlan song. Then the camera can cut to McLachlan petting an AIBO robot dog and urging us to donate. I would give her all my money. Both dollars.